Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Why “do” the Camino?

The very last thing I want to do here is to detract from the idea of pilgrimage in this or any other century or in this or any other blog. I am very sensitive to the idea that Pilgrimage for whatever purpose (and sometimes for no purpose at all) is a very personal thing. It has been suggested that I am trying to undermine the Camino de Santiago and this is as far from the truth as anything could be. If I am “trying” to do anything it is to give the Way back to those who walk it, for whatever reasons they choose. Sometime ago, someone, whose name I have forgotten, posted on one of the pilgrim forums that the Roman Catholic church would henceforth be charging 25 euros for a Compostela to anyone who could not prove s/he was Roman Catholic. Like most, I was taken in, very indignantly I may add. Until I saw the date of the post: April 1st!

The point is made though: this isn’t a Catholic Pilgrimage anymore. People walk for their own reasons – religious or not. But in my experience, most of us end up with the same feeling of completion and purpose and even spirituality even if we didn’t know what it meant when we started. Despite all those closed churches in Spain I believe that we need pilgrimage: what it is to us is up to us personally but I don’t think we can take the idea of “journey to the self” out of the equation: I have seen too many people transformed on the Camino de Santiago. It is a personal odyssey and I believe this unquestioningly. Without a sense of mythology we are lost: destined to make the same mistakes, historically and personally. With or without St. James.

I consider myself a pilgrim through and through and at the age of 58, I am about to embark on my 4th pilgrimage in July of this year. If I espouse any religious inclinations, I suppose I consider myself Unitarian Universalist, or perhaps a somewhat sceptic Gnostic, if that is a possibility. The Camino compels me – sometimes at inconvenient times when I feel that I “should” be following other roads – and I don’t know why. Perhaps that is why I have written about it and continue to write. Sometimes I wish it would just go away so that I can concentrate on other aspects of my busy life, but it doesn’t. I suppose I must be another Camino Junkie: what is it that makes us go back? What is it that “calls” us? I truly don´t know and I challenge anyone else to say why.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Tracy,
    Congratulations with all the wonderful vibes!
    I'm not an expert but I think the answer why pilgrims go to Fisterra lies in the sphere of Sir Edmund Percival Hillary's answer when asked why he climbed Mount Everest: 'Because it's there!' Perhaps it's the urge to reach our final destination at our own pace? Louis Charpentier has written beautiful comments on that observation. Also see http://the-santiago-enigma-clues.blogspot.com
    Buen Camino and Brassa!